General Crime

Search Called Off After No Human Remains Found At Site Of Suspected Arson Fire In San Jose

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No human remains were found by arson investigators who searched the charred wreckage of a vacant former television studio used as a shelter by dozens of squatters, a San Jose fire captain said today.

The San Jose Fire Department on Thursday called off its search for evidence of human victims in the five-alarm, suspected arson fire Sunday that destroyed the one-time home of KNTV at 645 Park Ave., fire Capt. Rob Brown said.

“They were not about to isolate any human remains at this time,” Brown said. “The arson investigation is completed as far as searching the property.”

The fire department turned over the site to the city of San Jose for demolition of what is left of the structure, Brown said.

A 55-year-old man, Stillman Pfeffer, was charged Wednesday with residential arson and first degree burglary in the fire, after prosecutors alleged he sprayed flammable liquid on a mattress inside the building Sunday while 20 to 40 transients were living inside it.

According to a report prepared by San Jose fire arson investigators, three people were unaccounted for of those living in the vacant building and “possibly were unable to exit the building at the time of the fire.”

Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which used the arson investigation report as part of its case against Pfeffer, asked a judge on Wednesday that Pfeffer be held without bail and reported that murder charges could be filed if anyone had been killed in the fire.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the fire department used human remains detection dogs to sniff the front and rear areas of the devastated building and the dogs indicated finding several “hits” for potential human remains, but none proved to be genuine.

Officers from Santa Clara County Animal Car & Control on Thursday recovered and removed the remains of a pet dog of one of the transients who had lived in the building, according to fire Capt. Cleo Doss.

On Tuesday, accelerant detection dogs brought in to find possible evidence of flammable materials identified some items that were bagged and taken to the county Crime Lab, according to San Jose fire arson investigators.

San Jose firefighters were called about the fire at 3 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Park and Montgomery avenues near the San Jose Caltrain station. The blaze eventually was upgraded to five alarms.

The fire was controlled by 5:47 p.m. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Property damage to the building was estimated at about $3.2 million, Deputy District Attorney David Boyd said.

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